Paul Gaudin, an archaeologist in Arabia

Wednesday, June 1st 2022

by Jean-Sylvain Caillou

Lots 301-309: A rare collection of artifacts, photographic plates and prints from the collection of Paul Gaudin.

Engineer and archaeologist Paul Gaudin (1858-1921) was one of the major patrons of the Louvre Museum, which he donated more than 2,100 artifacts to. The Istanbul Museum and other institutions also owe him a large part of their Asia Minor - especially Smyrna -antique collections.

As Isabelle Hasselin Rous, curator at the Louvre Museum, wrote: "[...] the archaeological collections of the museums of Istanbul and the Louvre share a common history, as the majority of their Smyrnian figurines were donated by Paul Gaudin between 1895 and 1904. Born in Paris in 1858, he was a railroad engineer at the Chemins de fer de la Compagnie de l'Ouest who was sent to Turkey in 1892. Gaudin was appointed COO of the Moudania-Brousse railroad line before moving to Smyrna in 1894, when he was promoted to the position of Director of the Compagnie du chemin de fer de Smyrne-Cassaba et prolongements and put in charge of the construction of the railroad extension line. He remained in Smyrna until 1905, at which time he was sent to Damascus for the construction of the Hedjaz Railway. He developed a passion for antiques and started building up a rich and varied collection of artifacts during his stay in Turkey, where he also directed archaeological excavations.

Gaudin obtained from Osman Hamdy-Bey the authorization to carry out excavations on two sites: the prehistoric site of the Yortan necropolis in Mysia (100 km east of Pergamon) in 1900-1901 and that of Aphrodisias, Caria in 1904-1905. He personally financed most of the excavations of Aphrodisias and carried them out on behalf of the Ottoman Imperial museums. Thanks to his close relationship with the antique dealers of Smyrna, he was able to build up a collection of Smyrnian figurines. At the end of the nineteenth century, as the population of the city of Smyrna was increasing rapidly, a construction surge in some areas of the city led to the discovery of hundreds of figurines emerging from the Smyrnian ground". (Hasselin Rous, Çaldiran Isik and Kongaz, 2015, pp. 4-5).

The artifacts and documents presented here are exceptional in more ways than one. Not only do they illustrate the richness of Paul Gaudin's collections, they also attest to the pioneering excavations he conducted in Turkey. Furthermore, they prove that Paul Gaudin was the first photographer of the site of Al-'Ula, Saudi Arabia. The pictures presented here were taken during his stint as Director of the Hijaz Railway and his subsequent participation in the Hodeidah-Sana'a, Yemen railway line project.

While several auctions have already been devoted to his important collection in the 20th century (in 1922, 1923, 1931 and 1974 - see the INHA website; Erim 1967, p. 236; Charloux 2001, p. 25), the 34th Garden Party Auction will most certainly be remembered for its importance for the history of archaeological research.
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